Rendering R&D – Interstellar

Was the core lead Houdini R&D developer for the show, responsible for :

  • DNGR Team Renderer development, part of the team for integration of Kip Thorne’s wormhole mathematics to create a relativistic pathtracer.
  • Light shaders and tools development
  • Volume shaders with a novel level set rendering method for massive geometry data sets
  • A custom pathtracer written for full integration of the DNGR renderer into Houdini and Mantra
  • FX tools for vast to small integration of ocean surfaces
  • Ocean and water shading materials and displace sculpting
  • Foam and bubble cluster simulation and rendering tools

The DNGR work was done with a small team comprised of Oliver James (Team lead), Kip Thorne, myself, Simon Pabst and Paul-George Roberts. The work itself was quite difficult with a number of problems to address, mostly comprising of alias elimination for such high frequency information. Since the data sets involved were exceedingly large I developed a novel method for rendering level sets as volumes (with minimal extra sampling), this allowed a large reduction in ray marching samples and consequent image quality improvements.

For the tidal wave and water work I wrote a set of tools for artists to sculpt ocean surfaces at widely varying continuous scales and fx tools for simulating bubbles and foam at the small scales for close work. These included associated materials and shaders. Also as per standard handled all the lighting shaders and lighting tools for Houdini and the light rig tools and transfer for all the other 3d packages.

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